Choosing a Chameleon as a Pet
The most striking feature of a chameleon is its ability to change colour. This can occur in response to stress, excitement, lighting, temperature and the presence of other chameleons, as well as other influences. Chameleons are great characters and do make good pets as long as you know what you are doing and have fully researched the species. Remember, they do require daily maintenance.
Types of Chameleons
There are a number of different species of Chameleon, and each will have its own specific care requirements, but some of the most popular species to keep as pets are as follows:
- Pygmy Chameleon
- Meller Chameleon
- Swift Veiled Chameleon
- Yemen Chameleon
Company for Chameleons
Chameleons are extremely antisocial creatures, they don’t even like the sight of each other, and can get stressed just by being able to see each other across a room. Sexually mature adults of the same sex should never be housed together, and male and female pairs should only be housed together if lots of room is provided.
Due to their antisocial nature, your pet Chameleon will be more of an observation pet. They prefer not to be picked up and handled, and doing so may stress it so much that it may be fatal.
When cleaning your cage your Chameleon should not be handled or played with instead you could put it in a supervised area to encourage exercise.
Chameleons are not long lived reptiles. Due to their rapid growth many species can be sexually mature at 6-12 months. The average lifespan of a Chameleon is 2-3 years however many may live to see 5 years.
Where Chameleons Like to Live
Your Chameleon needs lots of space, so choose a large vivarium with enough foliage for climbing and for privacy. The minimum size for large chameleons is 3 feet by 3 feet by 4 feet tall. Branches themselves need to be of a range of diameters and most of the cage space should be filled with branches and/or live foliage.
Ventilation is important and make sure also that there are several basking spots among the branches, of different temperatures. Natural sunlight is important if you want your chameleon to thrive but in practice, you may have to make do with full-spectrum UV lighting especially designed for reptiles.
Chameleons are extremely anti-social and do not like human interaction. Too much handling causes significant stress and which may be fatal for your pet. Invasion of their space or being startled will cause them to become defensive and they will become aggressive and hiss at you.
They do like to climb however, and will be quite active among branches so provide them with lots of space to climb and hide.
Diet & Nutrition
A healthy Chameleon will be active, with wide, bright eyes and skin. To help keep your Chameleon healthy and happy, you will need to provide a balanced diet of live insects and raw vegetables.
Your Chameleon will however become bored eating the same food all the time, so it is important to provide variety in their diet or you risk your pet going on hunger strike and refusing to eat.
Hatchlings and juvenile Chameleons will need a constant supply of food, while adults will be content with feeding every second day.
As a rule, choose live food which is no large than half the size of your Chameleons head.
Like most reptiles, your Chameleon will need a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement. If your lizard is lacking D3 and calcium it can get metabolic bone disease which can be fatal.
Chameleons will need regular water to keep them hydrated, but unlike other pets, they will not be able to see water, and rather will lick it off leaves and branches. For this reason, you should mist your Chameleon’s habitat daily with clean water.
Health & Hygiene
A healthy Chameleon will have bright eyes, clear skin and be quite active. To help ensure the ongoing health and well-being of your Chameleon, it is important to provide her with a balanced diet, a carefully managed habitat and regular cleaning.
These are some of the more common health problems experienced by Chameleons:
Metabolic Bone Disease
A problem for many reptiles, MBD is caused from a lack of calcium and/or UVA/UVB lighting. Symptoms include a thickened jaw line and/or ankles, bumps along spine, poor colour, brittle/broken/misaligned bones, lack of coordination and weakened grip or tendency to fall.
Caused by your Chameleon getting to close to their basking light; thermal burns are recognisable by a light green patch, which may be accompanied by a blister(s). The area then turns black and eventually falls off leaving a raw area prone to infection. If you notice this, medical attention will be required, but it can be easily prevented by ensuring the basking light is at least one foot away.
Female Chameleons will lay eggs a number of times each year, regardless of whether or not they have mated. If she does not have a suitable place to lay her eggs, she will retain them. This will cause suffocation, dehydration or malnourishment; each of which will be fatal. When she wants to deposit her eggs, she will stop eating, but keep drinking. She may also start scratching the glass or ground; her eyes will be closed and she will remain in the lower part of her vivarium. At this time, provide a container of clean sand in which she can deposit her eggs.
Cleaning the Habitat
Like any pet, regular cleaning of your pet’s home will be required to maintain its ongoing health. Establishing a regular routine will help you to keep your Chameleon’s vivarium clean and disease free.
• Take waste away, debris, dead feeder insects, and shed skin from the vivarium
• Mist your Chameleon’s vivarium with clean, fresh water
• Remove and clean any objects that have faecal matter on them
• Disinfect and clean the enclosure thoroughly
• Clean and disinfect interior items such as decorations, feeding and watering items
• Replace soiled substrate.
When cleaning your cage your Chameleon should not be handled or played with; instead you could put it in a supervised area to encourage exercise.
As with all reptiles, Chameleons have the potential to carry pathogens such as salmonella. Children under five should not handle them; and hands should be thoroughly washed before and after handling.
Take Me Home Checklist
Before you take your Chameleon home, it is important that you have a habitat set up for them to move straight into. This list will help you identify what you need, and if you have any questions, our Pet Care Advisors in-store will be only to happy to assist.
- Suitable vivarium
- Heat mat
- Full spectrum lighting
- Suitable substrate
- Branches for climbing and leaves for hiding
- Misting bottle or automatic misting machine
- Suitable diet